A Puritan Converts to the Catholic Church

John Thayer converted to the Catholic Church in 1783. Below is an excerpt from a letter to his brother explaining his reasons for converting.

That the Church May Be ONE

This indivisible unity of faith is evidently pointed out in Scripture, and Jesus Christ has established it as the foundationto the whole edifice, when He established His Church. She is one body, says St. Paul to the Ephesians (4:4-5), and we recognize but one Spirit which animates it, but one and the same Lord, but one and the same faith, but one baptism; that is to say, that our faith ought to be one in the same sense that Our Lord Jesus Christ is one. Now, Our Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely and essentially one; our faith, therefore, ought t be absolutely and rigorously one. In the prayer which Jesus Christ addressed to his Father for those who believe in him, he prayes that they may be united in faith, and that their union may resemble that of the three Persons of the Trinity, a union which he exhibits as a mark by which the world will infallibly know that He has received his mission from his Father. (John 17:20-21). Without this perfect union the world would never have been able to believe that he was sent by God.

You will perhaps suppose that Jesus Christ prayed at that same time that his disciples might be united in heart, and that he gives this mutual union formed and kept up by charity, as the distinctive mark of the society of Christians without any mention of unity of faith. But this very explanation proves the neccessity of being united in faith, since nothing destroys charity so much as a difference of religion. Witness all the disturbances and all the wars which the history of the different Sects records. Our Church alone can lay claim to this union, as an incontestable truth, and there needs no other proof to convince every mind not prepossessed against the Catholic Church that she alone is the true spouse of Jesus Christ.

All the Fathers of the Church unanimously insist on the necessity of a union in faith in the Church of Jesus Christ. You believe as we do that they are Saints. Now, taking into view the time when they lived, and how near they were to the time of Jesus Christ and His apostles, surely they could not be mistaken in this matter. I might produce in proof of what I here advance; an infinity of passages from their works, but my limits prevent me.

Yankee Priest-Puritan Convert

As we lay great stress upon the unity of Doctrine which has always prevailed and will always prevail among Catholics, you think to weaken the force of this argument by opposing the unity which reign among the Muslims: but the which you attribute to them is purely imaginary; for, according to the best historians, they are divided into two great Sects, the one of Omar, and other of Ali. These las, named Shiites, form five principal Sects which, like so many trees, extend into seventy branches. Their belief is extrememly varied in all these different societies: some doubt of their religion, and by dint of doubting end by becoming pure Deists; others admit the Metmpsycosis; many advocate absolute predestination, etc; All apply mutuall, from Sect to Sect, the well known terms of Othodox and Heterodox. Their hatred of one another is carried to such an excess, that in making the pilgrimage to Mecca, they divide themselves into as many different bands as there are Sectaries, and sympathize so little with, that they will not even pray for one another.

Let us then talk no more of the Mohammedan union. Let us confine ourselves to that of Protestants. I maintain that were you all of one mind, and one opinion it would be more the effect of chance than the result of your principles. That which serves as a foundation to all others is the liberty which each one enjoys to examine and judge for himself. Now, so far from such a principle producing union, it is sure on the contrary to prove a natural source of division.

The same cannot be said of our Church. By its very constitution and doctrine, it is impossible that there should arise divisions in what regards the articles of faith–take notice of these words, “aricles of faith.” In a mere matter of opinion, each one is free to adopt or reject as he pleases, but as soon as the Church has declared that such or such point is of Faith, from that moment all true Catholics submit upon the spot, because they believe the Church is infallible. Should anyone refuse to submit on such an occasion, he would be instantly excluded from her communion, because he would reject this fundamental principle, that “the Church is the pillar and ground of truth.” (ITim 3:15)

First Yankee Priest- A Puritan Convert Part II


What you tell me of the persecution which Catholics have raised against their enemies, show only that at all times there have been bad Catholics, who have made religion serve to exercise the malignity of their heart. Far from our religion approving of such Christians, she on the contrary highly condemns them, and never has she employed other arms in her defense than mildness, patience, and charity. There have been and perhaps there may be yet cruel and vindictive Catholics, as there have been and there may be yet cruel and perscuting Protestants, but neither these nor those war so in consequence of their principles: it is on the contrary because they depart from them.
We do not pretend to assert that all Catholics are Saints: we see unhappily how far they are from being so, and this is what grieves the good. I can notwithstanding assure you that of all those whom I have met with in several kingdoms of Europe, I have never yet seen a single one utter the least owrd of anything like harshness, or show the slightest animosity against Protestants; they pity and pray for them as for brethren who are deceived and gone astray. Here is their whole crime, but see how your different Sects are affected towards us; see even how they are affected towards one another, and judge for ourself to whom the charge of persecution more justly applicable, whether to you or to us?
I leave the decision to your conscience.

First Yankee Priest- A Puritan Convert

I came across this letter in the Coming Home Network newsletter July 2008. It is long and was published by them in at least 4 installments. I will have many more I think.

John Thayer was born in Boston in 1755 and raised as a Puritan Christian. He graduated from Yale and became a Congregational minister and served as chaplain to Boston troops under the command of John Hanncock. After the war he traveled to Rome. While there he engaged in disputing the authenticity of miracles wrought by the intercession of recently canonized St. Benedict Labre. This resulted in Thayer’s conversion (1783) and reception into the priesthood of the Catholic Church (1789).

Below and in the following posts I will record a letter written 220 years ago by Fr. Thayer in response to his very anti-Catholic brother, Nathaniel’s letter despairing of Fr. Thayer’s salvation.

My dear Brother and Friend,

It is with the greatest satisfaction I have received your letter…and what has afforded me particular pleasure is to find that you still entertain the same tender affection for me you always did. Be persuaded that mine is always the same towards you; and so far from time, distance, or difference of opinion having weakened it in any manner, it has on the contrary received additional strength in the holy religion I have embraced, a religion whose proper and essential character is to perfect htose moral virtues which she finds in us.

After the tender effusion of your heart, you express to me your regret at my having left the religion in which I was broght up, to folow one, which (as far as you have any knowledge of it) abounds in bigotry and superstition. You have done well, my dear brother, to add, as far as yu have any knowledge of it; for, give me leave to tell you, that you have no knowledge at all of it, and nothing could lead you to express yourself thus, but the false representations and black calumnies of our enemies, who have the talnt to conceal all that is reasonable in this religion, the most holy, and most worthy of our veneration. This ignorance is common to most Protestants: for, I cannot imagine there are many so malicious and wicked, as to impute errors to us, which they know, in their conscience, we do not believe.

I was, like you, in the grossest ignorance in this particular and must own to you that nothing surprised me more than the exposition of the Catholic religion, such as I heard it from the mouth of those who profess it, so different did I find it from that represented to me when I was at school. Believe me, My Dear Brother, I have no interest in deceiving you; I desire nothin so much as your salvation, and that of all my dear relations. I declare to you before God, who sees the sincerity ofmy heart, to obtain this grace, I would willingly endure death itself.

Before you read my answers to your objections I beseech you to retire for a few minutes into some lonely spot, and there with your whole heart, and on your knees, promise God firmly to renounce all your passions; ask of him the grace to avoid all that the voice of your conscience shall declare to you to be sinful, and offer up to him this prayer:

God of mercy, I intreat thee himbly, through thy infinite goodness, to enlighten my mind and to move my heart, in order that by the means of true Faith, Hope, and Charity, I may live and die in the true religion of Jesus Christ. I am certain that, as htere is but one only God, so there can be but one only Faith, one only religion, and one only way to salvation, and that all the ways which are opposed to this can only lead to Hell. It is this Faith, O my God, that I seek with eagerness, in order to embrace it and obtain salvation. I protest, therefore, before the throne of thy Majesty, and swear by all thy divine attributes, that I will follow the religion which though shall have pointed out to me as the true one, and will renounce, whatever it may cost me, that in which I shall discover error and falsehood. I do not deserve, it is true, this favor of thee on account of the multidude and enormity of my sins of which I have a sincere grief, since they are displeasing to the, a God so good, so great, so holy, and so worthy of being loved; but what I do not deserve, I yet hope to obtain of thy infinite mercy, and I conjure thee to grant me this favor through the merits of the precious blood which has been shed for us, poor sinners, by thy only SonJesus Christ. Amen.”

If such be your disposition, and if you really desire to cherish it, my answers, although short and imperfect, will be sufficient to dispel all the clouds which darken your mind: but if you are disposed to act otherwise, you seek not the truth with an upright mind.